News Of The World Scandal Case Study

The News International phone-hacking scandal is a controversy involving the now defunct News of the World and other British newspapers published by News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation. Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories. Whilst investigations conducted from 2005 to 2007 appeared to show that the paper's phone hacking activities were limited to celebrities, politicians, and members of the British Royal Family, in July 2011 it was revealed that the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings had also been hacked. The resulting public outcry against News Corporation and its owner Rupert Murdoch led to several high-profile resignations, including that of Murdoch as News Corporation director, Murdoch's son James as executive chairman, Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton, News International legal manager Tom Crone, and chief executive Rebekah Brooks. The commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Sir Paul Stephenson, also resigned. Advertiser boycotts led to the closure of the News of the World on 10 July 2011, after 168 years of publication.[1] Public pressure shortly forced News Corporation to cancel its proposed takeover of the British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

The prime minister David Cameron announced on 6 July 2011 that a public inquiry, known as the Leveson Inquiry, would look into phone hacking and police bribery by the News of the World, consider the wider culture and ethics of the British newspaper industry and that the Press Complaints Commission would be replaced "entirely".[1][2] A number of arrests and convictions followed, most notably of the former News of the World managing editor Andy Coulson.

Murdoch and his son, James, were summoned to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. Over the course of his testimony, Rupert Murdoch admitted that a cover-up had taken place within the News of the World to hide the scope of the phone hacking.[3] On 1 May 2012, a parliamentary select committee report concluded that Murdoch "exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications" and stated that he was "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company".[4] On 3 July 2013, Channel 4 News broadcast a secret tape in which Murdoch dismissively claims that investigators were "totally incompetent" and acted over "next to nothing" and excuses his papers' actions as "part of the culture of Fleet Street."[5]

Early investigations, 1990s–2005[edit]

By 2002, "an organised trade in confidential personal information" had developed in Britain and was widely used by the British newspaper industry.[6][7] Illegal means of gaining information used included hacking the private voicemail accounts on mobile phones, hacking into computers, making false statements to officials, entrapment, blackmail, burglaries, theft of mobile phones and making payments to public officials.[8][9][10][11][12]

Operation Nigeria[edit]

Private investigators who were illegally providing information to the News of the World were also engaged in a variety of other illegal activities. Between 1999 and 2003, several were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice. Jonathan Rees and his partner Sid Fillery, a former police officer, were also under suspicion for the murder of a private investigator named Daniel Morgan. The MPS undertook an investigation of Rees, entitled Operation Nigeria, and tapped his telephone. Substantial evidence was accumulated that Rees was purchasing information from improper sources and that, amongst others, Alex Marunchak of the News of the World was paying him up to £150,000 a year for doing so.[13]Jonathan Rees reportedly bought information from former and serving police officers, Customs officers, a VAT inspector, bank employees, burglars, and from blaggers who would telephone the Inland Revenue, the DVLA, banks and phone companies, and deceive them into releasing confidential information.[11] Rees then sold the information to the News of the World, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times.[14]

The Operation Nigeria bugging ended in September 1999 and Rees was arrested when he was heard planning to plant drugs on a woman so that her husband could win custody of their child.[13][15] Rees was convicted in 2000 and served a five-year prison sentence.[13][16] Others individuals associated with Rees who were taped during Operation Nigeria, including Detective Constable Austin Warnes, former detective Duncan Hanrahan, former Detective Constable Martin King and former Detective Constable Tom Kingston, were prosecuted and jailed for various offences unrelated to phone hacking.[13][15][17]

In June 2002, Fillery had reportedly used his relationship with Alex Marunchak to arrange for private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, then doing work for News of the World, to obtain confidential information about Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, one of the police officers investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan. Mulcaire obtained Cook's home address, his internal Metropolitan police payroll number, his date of birth and figures for his mortgage payments as well as physically following him and his family. Attempts to access Cook's voicemail and that of his wife, and possibly hack his computer and intercept his post were also suspected.[18] Documents reportedly held by Scotland Yard show that "Mulcaire did this on the instructions of Greg Miskiw, assistant editor at News of the World and a close friend of Marunchak." The Metropolitan Police Service handled this apparent attempt by agents of the News of the World to interfere with a murder inquiry by having informal discussions with Rebekah Brooks, then editor for the newspaper. "Scotland Yard took no further action, apparently reflecting the desire of Dick Fedorcio, Director of Public Affairs and Internal Communication for the Met who had a close working relationship with Brooks, to avoid unnecessary friction with the newspaper."[18]

No one was charged with illegal acquisition of confidential information as a result of Operation Nigeria, even though the Met reportedly collected hundreds of thousands of incriminating documents during the investigation into Jonathan Rees and his links with corrupt officers.[19][20] Fillery was convicted for child pornography offences in 2003.[16] Upon Rees' release from prison in 2005, he immediately resumed his investigative work for the News of the World, where Andy Coulson had succeeded Rebekah Brooks as editor.

Operation Motorman[edit]

In 2002, under the title Operation Motorman, the Information Commissioner's Office,[21] raided the offices of various newspaper and private investigators, looking for details of personal information kept on unregistered computer databases. The operation uncovered numerous invoices addressed to newspapers and magazines, which detailed prices for the provision of personal information. 305 journalists, working for at least 30 publications, were identified as purchasing confidential information from private investigators.[6][22] The ICO raided a private investigator named John Boyall, whose specialty was acquiring information from confidential databases. Glenn Mulcaire had been Boyall's assistant, until the autumn of 2001 when the News of the World's assistant editor, Greg Miskiw gave him a full-time contract to do work for the newspaper.[13] When the ICO raided Boyall's premises in November 2002 they seized documents that led them to the premises of another private investigator, Steve Whittamore.[23][24] There they found "more than 13,000 requests for confidential information from newspapers and magazines."[13][18] This established that confidential information was illegally acquired from telephone companies, the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Police National Computer. "Media, especially newspapers, insurance companies and local authorities chasing council tax arrears all appear in the sales ledger" of the agency.[23] Whittamore's network gave him access to confidential records at telephone companies, banks, post offices, hotels, theatres, and prisons, including BT Group, Crédit Lyonnais, Goldman Sachs, Hang Seng Bank, Glen Parva prison, and Stocken prison.[24]

Although the ICO issued two reports, "What price privacy?" in May 2006 and "What price privacy now?" in December 2006, much of the information obtained through Operation Motorman was not made public.[23][25] Although there was evidence of many people being engaged in illegal activity, relatively few were questioned. Operation Motorman's lead investigator said in 2006 that "his team were told not to interview journalists involved. The investigator...accused authorities of being too 'frightened' to tackle journalists."[26] The newspaper with the highest number of requests was the Daily Mail with 952 transactions by 58 journalists; the News of the World came fifth in the table, with 182 transactions from 19 journalists.[22] The Daily Mail rejected the accusations within the report insisting it only used private investigators to confirm public information, such as dates of birth.[22]

Operation Glade[edit]

Learning that Steve Whittamore was obtaining information from the police national computer, the Information Commissioner contacted the Metropolitan Police and the Met's anti-corruption unit initiated Operation Glade.[13] Whittamore's detailed records identified 27 different journalists as having commissioned him to acquire confidential information for which they paid him tens of thousands of pounds. Invoices submitted to News International "sometimes made explicit reference to obtaining a target's details from their phone number or their vehicle registration."[24] Between February 2004 and April 2005, the Crown Prosecution Service charged ten men working for private detective agencies with crimes relating to the illegal acquisition of confidential information.[13][27][28] No journalists were charged.[28] Whittamore, Boyall, and two others pleaded guilty in April 2005. According to ICO head Richard Thomas, "each pleaded guilty yet, despite the extent and the frequency of their admitted criminality, each was conditionally discharged [for two years], raising important questions for public policy."[13][23]

2005–2006: Royal phone hacking scandal[edit]

Main article: News of the World royal phone hacking scandal

On 14 November 2005, the News of the World published an article written by royal editor Clive Goodman, claiming that Prince William was in the process of borrowing a portable editing suite from ITV correspondent Tom Bradby. Following the publication, the Prince and Bradby met to try to figure out how the details of their arrangement had been leaked, as only two other people were aware of it. Prince William noted that another equally improbable leak had recently taken place regarding an appointment he had made with a knee surgeon.[29] The Prince and Bradby concluded it was likely that their voicemails were being accessed.[30]

The Metropolitan Police set up an investigation under Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke reporting to Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, commander of the Specialist Operations directorate, which included royal protection.[31][32] By January 2006 Clarke's team had concluded that the compromised voice mail accounts belonged to Prince William's aides, not the Prince himself, and that there was an "unambiguous trail" to Clive Goodman, the News of the World royal reporter, and to Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator.[33] The detectives put Goodman and Mulcaire under surveillance and, on 8 August 2006, searched Goodman's desk at the News of the World and raided Mulcaire's home. There they seized "11,000 pages of handwritten notes listing nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims whose phones may have been hacked."[34][35][36] The names included eight members of the royal family and their staff.[35] There were dozens of notebooks, two computers containing 2,978 complete or partial mobile phone numbers and 91 PIN codes, plus 30 tape recordings made by Mulcaire. Significantly, there were at least three names of News of the World journalists other than Goodman and a recording of Mulcaire instructing a journalist how to hack into private voice mail.[35][36] All this material was taken to Scotland Yard.

In August 2006, Goodman and Mulcaire were arrested by the Metropolitan Police, and later charged with hacking the telephones of members of the royal family by accessing voicemail messages, an offence under section 79 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.[37] The News of the World had paid Mulcaire £104,988 for his services. In addition, Goodman had paid Mulcaire £12,300 in cash between 9 November 2005 and 7 August 2006, using the code name Alexander on his expenses sheet for him.[38] The court heard that Mulcaire had also hacked into the messages of supermodel Elle Macpherson, publicist Max Clifford, MP Simon Hughes, football agent Sky Andrew, and Gordon Taylor.[33] On 26 January 2007, both Goodman and Mulcaire pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to four and six months imprisonment respectively.[39] On the same day, Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World, while insisting that he had no knowledge of any illegal activities. In March 2007, a senior aide to Rupert Murdoch told a parliamentary committee that a "rigorous internal investigation" found no evidence of widespread hacking at the News of the World.

After Goodman and Mulcaire pleaded guilty, a breach of privacy claim was started by Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association who was represented by his solicitor Mark Lewis.[40] That claim settled for a payment of £700,000 including legal costs.[41] James Murdoch agreed the settlement.[42]

PCC investigations[edit]

The Press Complaints Commission, PCC, is the organisation charged with self-regulation of the newspaper and magazine industry in Britain. The PCC's inquiry into phone hacking in 2007 concluded that the practice should stop but that "there is a legitimate place for the use of subterfuge when there are grounds in the public interest to use it and it is not possible to obtain information through other means."[43][44]News of the World editor Colin Myler told the PCC that Goodman's hacking was "aberrational", "a rogue exception" of a single journalist. The PCC opted not to question Andy Coulson on the grounds that he had left the industry, and not to question any other journalist or executive on the paper, apart from Myler, who had no knowledge of what had been going on there before his appointment. The PCC's subsequent report failed to uncover any evidence of any phone hacking by any newspaper beyond that revealed at Goodman's trial.[45]

In 2009 the PCC held another inquiry, to see whether they were misled by the News of the World in 2007, and if there was any evidence that phone hacking had taken place since then. It concluded it had not been misled and that there was no evidence of ongoing phone hacking.[46] This report and its conclusions were withdrawn on 6 July 2011, two days after it was revealed that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked.[47][48][49]

2009–2011: Renewed investigations[edit]

Main article: News of the World phone hacking scandal investigations

After the 2006 conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, and with assurances from News International, the Press Complaints Commission and the Metropolitan Police Service that no one else had been involved in phone hacking, the public perception was that the matter was closed. Nick Davies and other journalists from The Guardian, and eventually other newspapers, however continued to examine evidence from court cases and use Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to find evidence to the contrary.[50][51]

The Guardian July 2009 reports[edit]

A small number of victims of phone hacking engaged solicitors and made civil claims for invasion of privacy. By March 2010, News International had spent over £2 million settling court cases with victims of phone hacking. As information about these claims leaked out, The Guardian continued to follow the story. On 8 & 9 July 2009, the newspaper published three articles alleging that:

  • News Group Newspapers, NGN, a subsidiary of News International, agreed to large settlements with hacking victims, including Gordon Taylor. The settlements included gagging provisions to prevent release of evidence that NGN journalists had used criminal methods to get stories. "News Group then persuaded the court to seal the file on Taylor's case to prevent all public access, even though it contained prima facie evidence of criminal activity."[52] That evidence included documents seized in raids by the Information Commissioner's Office as well as by the Met.[45]
  • If the suppressed evidence became public, hundreds more phone hacking victims might be able to take legal action against News International newspapers and might lead to police inquiries being re-opened.[52]
  • When Andy Coulson was editor of the News of the World, journalists there openly engaged private investigators for illegal phone hacking and raised invoices that itemised illegal acts.[45]
  • Everybody at the News of the World knew what was going on and knew that there was no public interest defense for phone hacking. The way investigations had been pursued raised serious questions about the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the courts which, "faced with evidence of conspiracy and systemic illegal actions,...agreed to seal the evidence." rather than make it public.[53]
  • The Met held evidence that thousands of mobile phones had been hacked into by agents of the News of the World and that Members of Parliament, including cabinet ministers, were among the victims.[52]
  • "The Metropolitan Police took the decision not to inform all the individuals whose phones had been targeted and the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take News Group executives to court."[45]
  • News International executives had misled a Parliamentary select committee, the Press Complaints Commission and the public about the extent of their newspaper's illegal activities.[52]

Scotland Yard's response[edit]

When the Guardian articles were published, Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson asked Assistant Commissioner John Yates to look at the phone hacking case to see if it should be reopened. Yates reportedly took just eight hours to consult with senior detectives and Crown Prosecution lawyers to conclude there was no fresh material that could lead to further convictions.[54] His review did not include an examination of the thousands of pages of evidence seized in the 2006 Mulcaire raid.[55] In September 2009, Yates maintained his position to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee saying, "There remain now insufficient grounds or evidence to arrest or interview anyone else additional evidence has come to light."[56] Upon review of the first inquiry, he concluded that there were "hundreds, not thousands" of potential victims."[34] Yates told the Committee, "It is very few, it is a handful" of persons that had been subject to hacking.[57] Although Yates was aware of the "Transcript for Neville" email that indicated more than a single rogue reporter was involved, he did not interview Neville Thurlbeck nor any other journalist at the News of the World, nor look into the cases of victims beyond the eight named in court in 2006.[57][58] The Committee's findings, released in February 2010, were critical of the police for not pursuing "evidence that merited a wider investigation."[36][59]

The Committee Chairman John Whittingdale also questioned whether the Committee had been misled by several of the News International executives who had testified before it in 2007 that Goodman alone was involved in phone hacking. The Committee again heard evidence from Les Hinton, by then chief executive officer of Dow Jones & Company, and Andy Coulson, by then director of communications for the Conservative Party. Their report concluded that it was "inconceivable" that no one, other than Goodman, knew about the extent of phone hacking at the paper, and that the Committee had "repeatedly encountered an unwillingness to provide the detailed information that we sought, claims of ignorance or lack of recall and deliberate obfuscation".[59]

Assistant Commissioner Yates returned to the Committee on 24 March 2011 and defended his position that only ten to twelve victims met the criteria given to the police by the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS denied that what they had told the Met could be reasonably used to limit the scope of the investigation.[60] Further, they claimed to have been misled by the Met during consultations on the Royal Household inquiry. Met officials reportedly "didn’t discuss certain evidence with senior prosecutors, including the notes suggesting the involvement of other reporters."[36]

The Home Affairs Select Committee also questioned Yates in 2009 about the Met's continuing refusal to reopen the investigation "following allegations that 27 other News International reporters had commissioned private investigators to carry out tasks, some of which might have been illegal." Yates responded that he had only looked into the facts of the original 2006 inquiry into Goodmans activities.[61] The Home Affairs Committee began another inquiry on 1 September 2010 and later published a report highly critical of the Met, stating, "The difficulties were offered to us as justifying a failure to investigate further, and we saw nothing that suggested there was a real will to tackle and overcome those obstacles."

The Guardian continued to be critical of Yates, who responded by hiring a firm of libel lawyers, paid for by the Met, to threaten legal action against anyone that claimed he had misled Parliament.[13][62] Eventually, as celebrities and politicians continued asking if they had been victims of hacking, Yates directed that the evidence from the Mulcaire raid, that had been stored in bin bags for three years, finally be entered into a computer database. Ten people were assigned the task. Yates himself did not look at the evidence saying later, "I’m not going to go down and look at bin bags. I am supposed to be an Assistant Commissioner."[55] He did not re-open the investigation.

Days after the settlement with Gordon Taylor was revealed by The Guardian in July 2009, Max Clifford, another of the eight victims named in 2006, announced his intentions to sue. In March 2010, News International agreed to settle his suit for £1,000,000, a much greater than expected settlement if hacking Clifford's phone was the only issue.[63] These two awards encouraged other victims to explore legal redress, resulting in more and more phone hacking queries to the Metropolitan Police, which they were often slow to respond to.[64] One commentator observed that "the Goodman-Mulcaire revelations and subsequent prosecution were supposed to have settled the hacking matter forever and might have done just that, except that successful law suits... kept popping up against News of the World after the convictions."[65]

The Guardian December 2010 report[edit]

On 15 December 2010, The Guardian reported that some of the documents seized from Glenn Mulcaire in 2006 by the Metropolitan Police Service and only recently disclosed in open court, implied that News of the World editor Ian Edmondson specifically instructed Mulcaire to hack voice messages of Sienna Miller, Jude Law, and several others. The documents also implied that Mulcaire was engaged by News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and assistant editor Greg Miskiw, who had then worked directly for editor Andy Coulson.[66] This contradicted testimony to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by News International executives and senior Met officials that there was no evidence of hacking by anyone other than Mulcaire and Goodman. Within five weeks of the article appearing,

January–June 2011: Admission of liability[edit]

Operation Weeting begins[edit]

Main article: Operation Weeting

The Metropolitan Police announced on 26 January 2011 that it would begin a new investigation into phone hacking, following the receipt of "significant new information" regarding the conduct of News of the World employees.[71] Operation Weeting would take place alongside the previously announced review of phone hacking evidence by the Crown Prosecution Service.[72] Between 45 and 60 officers began looking over the 11,000 pages of evidence seized from Mulcaire in August 2006.[73][74]

In June 2011, the issue of computer hacking was addressed with the launch of Operation Tuleta.

Having failed thus far to put the phone hacking issue to rest, News International's law firm, Hickman & Rose, hired former Director of Public ProsecutionsKen Macdonald to review the emails that News International executives had used as the basis of their claim that no one at the News of the World but Clive Goodman had been involved in phone hacking. Macdonald immediately concluded, regardless of whether others had been involved, that there was clear evidence of criminal activity, including payments to serving police officers. Macdonald arranged for this evidence to be turned over to the Met, which led to their opening in July 2011 of Operation Elveden, an investigation focused on bribery and corruption within the Met's ranks.

The first arrests as part of Operation Weeting were made on 5 April 2011. Ian Edmondson and the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck were arrested on suspicion of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.[75][76] Both men had denied participating in illegal activities. The paper's assistant news editor, James Weatherup, was taken into custody for questioning by the Metropolitan Police on 14 April 2011.[77][78][79][80][81] He had also dealt with some major fiscal issues, "managing huge budgets" and "crisis management" at the newspaper.[77][82][83]

The Guardian, referring to the Information Commissioner's report of 2006, queried why the Metropolitan Police chose to exclude a large quantity of material relating to Jonathan Rees from the scope of its Operation Weeting inquiry.[84] The News of the World was said to have made extensive use of Rees' investigative services, including phone hacking, paying him up to £150,000 a year.[85] On the basis of evidence obtained during Operation Nigeria, Rees was found guilty in December 2000 of attempting to pervert the course of justice and received a seven-year prison sentence.[86] After he was released from prison the News of the World, under the editorship of Andy Coulson, began commissioning Rees' services again.[85]

The Guardian journalist Nick Davies described commissions from the News of the World as the "golden source" of income for Rees' "empire of corruption", which involved a network of contacts with corrupt police officers and a pattern of illegal behaviour extending far beyond phone hacking.[87] Despite detailed evidence, the Metropolitan Police failed to pursue effective in-depth investigations into Rees' corrupt relationship with the News of the World over more than a decade.[85]

On 12 July 2011, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers told MPs and the Home Affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz that police had contacted 170 of the 3,870 people named in Glenn Mulcaire's files to date.[88][89]

Apology and compensation[edit]

News International announced on 8 April 2011 that it would admit liability in some of the breach of privacy cases being brought in relation to phone hacking by the News of the World. The company offered an unreserved apology and compensation to eight claimants, but would continue to contest allegations made by other litigants.[90][91]

The eight claimants were identified in media reports as:[75][92][93][94]

At the time of News International's announcement, 24 individuals were in the process of taking legal action against the News of the World on breach of privacy grounds.[90] Comic actor Steve Coogan was reported to be one of the suspected victims of phone hacking.[75][93][94]

Hoppen lodged a further claim against the News of the World and one of its reporters, Dan Evans, for "accessing or attempting to access her voicemail messages between June 2009, and March 2010".[95] News International has not admitted liability in relation to the claim.[91][95]

On 10 April, Tessa Jowell and her former husband David Mills, Andy Gray, Sky Andrew, Nicola Phillips, Joan Hammell, and Kelly Hoppen all received the official apology and compensation, but actor Leslie Ash and John Prescott, who both had also claimed breach of privacy, did not.[95][96]

Scottish politician Danny Alexander predicted further arrests would be made. The shadow Secretary of State for WalesPeter Hain called on the legal authorities to conduct a "full and proper public investigation" and then claimed the police investigation had been "tardy".[96]

The first individual to accept the News of the World's apology and compensation was actress Sienna Miller, who received £100,000 plus legal costs.[97] Sports pundit Andy Gray followed in June, accepting a payout of £20,000 plus legal costs.[98] Prior to the settlements, both individuals' litigation claims had been identified as phone hacking "test cases" to be heard in January 2012.

In January 2012 it was reported that Respect politician George Galloway, who was not an MP at the time, had settled out of court.[99] Galloway had begun legal proceedings for breach of privacy in 2010 after being told by the Met that he had probably been targeted by Mulcaire. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[100] Galloway said the apology was a cynical attempt to protect Rebekah Brooks.

In April, The Observer reported claims from a former minister that Rupert Murdoch tried to persuade Prime Minister Gordon Brown early in 2010 to help in resisting attempts by Labour MPs and peers to investigate the affair, and to go easy on News of the World in the run-up to the UK's general election of May 2010.[101] News International described the report as "total rubbish"; a spokesperson for Brown declined to comment.

The BBC reported on 20 May 2011 that a senior News of the World executive was implicated, according to actor Jude Law's barrister in the High Court. This report also said that the number of people whose phones may have been hacked may be much larger than previously thought. The High Court was said to have been told that "notebooks belonging to a private investigator hired by News Group Newspapers contained thousands of mobile phone numbers" and "police also found 149 individual personal identification numbers and almost 400 unique voicemail numbers which can be used to access voice mail".[102]

July 2011: new allegations[edit]

Milly Dowler's voicemail[edit]

It was first reported by The Guardian on 4 July 2011 that police had found evidence suggesting that the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire collected personal information about the family of the missing Surrey teenager Milly Dowler, following her disappearance in March 2002 and the discovery of her body six months later.[103] According to the paper, journalists working for the News of the World had hired private investigators to hack into Dowler's voicemail inbox shortly after her disappearance. It was alleged that they had deleted some messages, giving false hope to police and to Dowler's family, who thought that she might have deleted the messages and therefore might still be alive and potentially destroying valuable evidence about her abduction and any evidence against a potential abductor and murderer.

Levi Bellfield had been convicted of the murder just two weeks before these revelations – he had already been convicted of two murders and an attempted murder which took place after Milly's disappearance and the discovery of her body. It was later established that Dowler's phone had deleted the messages automatically, 72 hours after being listened to.[104]The Guardian commented that the News of the World did not conceal from its readers in an article on 14 April 2002 that it had intercepted telephone messages and also informed Surrey police of this fact on 27 March 2002, six days after Milly went missing.[103]

In July 2011, it was announced that the Dowler family was preparing a claim for damages against the News of the World.[105] News Group Newspapers described the allegation as "a development of great concern".[103] Reacting to the revelation, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the alleged hacking, if true, was "truly dreadful". He added that police ought to pursue a "vigorous" investigation to ascertain what had taken place.[106][107] Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband called on Rebekah Brooks, the News of the World's editor in 2002, and then the chief executive of News International, to "consider her conscience and consider her position".[107] Brooks denied knowledge of phone hacking during her editorship.[108][109]

It was in the wake of the Dowler allegations that a significant number of people, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott and other politicians, began seriously to question whether the takeover of BSkyB by News Corporation should be vetoed by the appropriate government authorities. The Media Standards Trust formed the pressure group Hacked Off, to campaign for a public inquiry. Soon after launch, the campaign gained the support of suspected hacking victim, the actor Hugh Grant, who became a public spokesperson, appearing on Question Time and Newsnight.[111]

In January 2012, it was revealed that Surrey Police had discovered during the early stages of their inquiries that News of the World staff had accessed Amanda Dowler's mobile phone messages but did not take issue with this. Instead, a senior Surrey officer invited News of the World staff to a meeting to discuss the case.[112]

British soldiers' relatives[edit]

On 6 July 2011, The Daily Telegraph reported that the "phones" (more precisely, the voicemail accounts) of some relatives of British soldiers killed in action in Iraq since 2003 and Afghanistan since 2001 may have been eavesdropped by the News of the World.[113] The personal details and phone numbers belonging to relatives of dead service personnel were found in the Glen Mulcaire's files.[114] In response to the allegations, The Royal British Legion announced that it would suspend all ties with the News of the World, dropping the newspaper as its campaigning partner.[115][116]

7/7 London attack victims[edit]

On the day before the sixth anniversary of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, it was reported that relatives of some victims may have had their telephones snooped on by the News of the World in the aftermath of the attacks. A man who lost two children in the bombings told the BBC that police officers investigating phone hacking had warned him that their contact details were found on a target list, while a former firefighter who helped rescue injured passengers also said he had been contacted by police who were looking into the hacking allegations.[117] A number of survivors from the bombings revealed that police had warned them their phones may have been hacked and their messages intercepted; in some cases they were advised to change security codes and PINs.[118][119][120]

Sara Payne[edit]

On 28 July, The Guardian reported that the News of the World hacked into the voicemail of media campaigner Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter, Sarah Payne, was murdered in West Sussex by paedophileRoy Whiting, in July 2000. This news was arguably met with even more public outrage than the Dowler revelations, given the prominent role that Rebekah Brooks and the News of the World played in the passage of Sarah's Law, which changed sex offender laws in the UK. Sara Payne has been an active campaigner in favour of such laws with News International and other media and charity organisations since her daughter's death.

Brooks developed a long-standing friendship with Sara Payne in the years after her daughter's death; Payne wrote a column praising the News of the World's support for Sarah's Law in its final issue, writing that the paper's staff "supported me through some of the darkest, most difficult times of my life and became my trusted friends".[121] Brooks used the Sarah's Law campaign to defend the News of the World when she was questioned by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Scotland Yard had reportedly found materials pertaining to Payne in Glenn Mulcaire's notes. They also discovered that Payne's voicemail was on a mobile phone given to her by Brooks, ostensibly to help her keep in touch with supporters. Brooks issued a statement denying that the News of the World was aware of Mulcaire's targeting of Payne, saying that such an idea was "unthinkable". Payne was said to be "absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed" at the disclosure.

Other victims[edit]

Some email messages were discovered suggesting Jonathan Rees[122] made requests for sums of around £1,000 for contact details of senior members of the Royal Family and friends.[123]

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott claimed he knew of "direct evidence" indicating The Sunday Times was involved in illegal news gathering activities.[124] Former prime minister Gordon Brown alleged his bank account was accessed by The Sunday Times in 2000, and that The Sun gained private medical records about his son, Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis.[124]Rebekah Brooks telephoned Brown to tell him that The Sun was going to reveal that his son had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and tried to persuade him not to spoil the newspaper's exclusive by announcing it himself first.[125]The Guardian later ran a front-page story accusing The Sun of improperly obtaining the medical records of Brown's son, but was later forced to issue an apology upon discovering that the information came from a member of the public.[126]

Other victims of hacking included former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner John Yates, who revealed on 12 January 2011 that his phone was hacked between 2004 and 2005.[127] The phone of chat show host Paul O'Grady was also hacked by the News of the World after he suffered a heart attack in 2006.[128][129]

In May 2012 it was reported that billionaire Robert Agostinelli had been targeted by a private detective named Steve Whitamore working for Rupert Murdoch's newspaper to gain confidential information pertaining to Agostinelli's business affairs – this evidence brought to light the fact that high-profile U.S citizens were targeted by private investigators in the UK within Rupert Murdoch's empire. This was revealed once the Information Commissioner's Office raided Steve Whittamore's offices and was subsequently convicted of illegally trading personal information.[130]

In July 2011 it was reported that Mark Stephens had been one of a group of high-profile lawyers who may have been the victim of "News International phone hacking scandal".[131]

Mary Ellen Field, the former business manager of model Elle Macpherson, lost her job after Field was accused of leaking confidential information to the News of the World, which had published a story about Macpherson's split with Arpad Busson. Field realised their voicemails could have been intercepted after Glenn Mulcaire admitted in court to accessing Macpherson's phones.[132]

A cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man shot dead by police who mistook him for a fugitive suspected of involvement in the 21 July 2005 attempted bombings in London, may also have had his phone hacked by the News of the World after Menezes's death.[133][134][135][136] A spokesperson from the Justice4Jean campaign group said: "The Menezes family are deeply pained to find their phones may have been hacked at a time at which they were at their most vulnerable and bereaved."[133][134]

Carole Caplin, the former fitness adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced that the Metropolitan police had told her that her mobile phone was probably hacked, dating back to 2002 – along with the Milly Dowler case in the same year, this is one of the earliest cases so far discovered.[137]


Closure of the News of the World[edit]

The closure of the News of the World after 168 years in print, was the first significant effect of the scandal. In the days leading up to 7 July 2011, Virgin Holidays, The Co-operative Group, Ford Motor Company and General Motors (owner of Vauxhall Motors) had all pulled their advertisements from the News of the World in response to the unfolding controversy. Several other major advertisers also considered doing the same. [138]

James Murdoch announced on 7 July 2011 that after 168 years in print the News of the World

It was reported that the News of the World may have hacked the phones of relatives of 7/7 attack victims (survivors pictured aboard one of the bombed Underground trains)
The Guardian newspaper was at the forefront of reporting on the phone hacking scandal.

News Corporation executive chairman Rupert Murdoch has been secretly recorded regretting the assistance given to authorities who were investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption at his newspapers.

In a 45-minute recording of a speech to staff at his British newspaper The Sun made by a reporter in attendance and subsequently leaked to the press, the News Corporation boss also described payments to police and public officials as part of “the culture of Fleet Street”.

Of the police investigation, Murdoch added:

I mean, it’s a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent.

In a statement, News Corporation said: “Mr Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK Authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise.”

The Conversation spoke with David McKnight, an Associate Professor in the Journalism and Media Research Centre at UNSW and author of Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power, for his reaction to Murdoch’s comments.

What do these tapes tell us about what Rupert Murdoch knew about the phone hacking scandal and payments to police?

I didn’t see any reference that suggested that he knew all about it. What struck me about the whole thing is his remark that they were having the biggest inquiry ever over “next to nothing” and quote “next to nothing”.

That’s what he really thinks the phone hacking scandal and the payments to police amounts to. It’s an extraordinary contrast to the “humblest day of my life” public persona.

The other thing I thought was really striking was one of the journalists asked him “when are we going to hit back” and he said “we will”. It’s really a kind of ominous boasting that is very familiar to anyone who has studied Murdoch. It was just a sort of general disdain to the seriousness of the whole thing – the whole scandal.

What do these comments tell us about the culture at News Corp, given Murdoch made these comments in March 2013, well after the phone hacking scandal and the arrests of many staff?

In the book I wrote, I said that essentially what you had in News Corporation was a corporate culture of contempt for rules, and the unofficial motto of News Corp was “do whatever it takes, rules are for other people”. The company rewarded those who pushed the boundaries.

What this shows is that the corporate culture of contempt for rules is very lively besides all the public statements and even in spite of the cooperation that News International has given the police – nothing seems to have changed in Murdoch’s view of the world.

What implications, if any, does this have for Murdoch’s Australian operations?

The other thing about this and about the situation more generally in Australia, of course there is very little discussion of this, is that we’re moving to a situation here where the gradual weakening of Fairfax will essentially mean that Murdoch will have a quasi-monopoly of newspapers in Australia.

I think this culture of contempt for rules – I mean I can talk about it at great length – where it has a direct relevance to Australia – everyone says, and they’re probably right, that there has been no hacking in Australia – but the contempt for rules here takes the form of contempt of any notion of political balance in his newspapers.

He’s got newspapers, particularly in Brisbane and Melbourne, they already have a monopoly there. They’ve got the only newspaper in Darwin and Hobart, they’re competitors are weakening and if you look at those newspapers – and his most powerful newspapers the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph – not every columnist and comment is right-wing but the overwhelming bulk is. There is no sense of balance.

The newspapers we have seen recently have been used as campaign vehicles against the Gillard government, that’s what they were and we can expect more of this if Fairfax is broken up. All of this is significant because whatever people say about electronic media and new media, in all their problems, newspapers still generate the vast amount of original content and original reporting which is reproduced elsewhere and television and radio live of it. So newspapers are still central.

In a sense it’s not the newspapers, it’s the newsrooms. Even the broken business model of newspapers continues to support the biggest newsrooms in Australia – Murdoch understands that, and that’s why he is even toying with buying more newspapers even at this stage.

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